On Monday, 230 municipal officials from Rotterdam showed 3200 students around the city on the first day of Eurekaweek.
“In other years, we hired guides to give the tours. This year, we wanted the municipal officials to do it. They know the city well too and have a different view of Rotterdam through their jobs,” says project leader Ton Legerstee from the Sterke Schouders programme.
“As a city, Rotterdam always seemed to have a bad reputation, but that’s really changing now,” says Legerstee. “With Sterke Schouders, we’re trying to get a number of target groups, like students, more involved in the city, to make Rotterdam more attractive for those with higher qualifications.” Legerstee assembled a team of 230 municipal officials, from directors to project assistants, to act as voluntary ‘city guides’. They planned five different routes through the city, each lasting an hour and a half.
Nienke Riemersma was one of the city guides on Monday afternoon. As Police Community Support Officer High Impact Crimes, she normally advises the mayor about residential burglaries, street violence and assaults. “When I told the first year students what I did, they were rather taken aback,” says Riemersma. “But fortunately I was mainly able to show them the positive sides of the city.”
Her group of first year sociology students went on the jazz route, a tour which took in the museum park, Witte de Withstraat and icons like the Erasmus bridge and Zadkine’s statue The Destroyed City on Leuvehaven.
“It’s a shame that you can’t really show them very much in an hour and a half,” says Riemersma. “Of course you show them the skyline and important places, but I particularly enjoyed telling them about less obvious places like the Pauluskerk and Heilige Boontjes on Eendrachtsplein. And I recommended them to visit Rotterdam-Zuid at their first opportunity.”
Tour for parents
Legerstee is very enthusiastic about the new approach to introducing students to the city. “It will definitely pay dividends. It’s also useful for policy makers to look at the city in a different way,” says Legerstee. “One of the city guides has lots of contacts with businesses, for example. She’s given her number to first years, so that the students can call her if they need to find a work placement, for example.” These are exactly the type of contacts between the university and the city that Sterke Schouders wants to promote.
Legerstee already has an idea for next year: “Lots of international students arrive in Rotterdam with their parents. Some of them were disappointed that there wasn’t a tour for parents.” If he has any say in it, there will be one next year.